Skip to main content

Full text of "The Gay Genius"

See other formats


224                             THE GAY GENIUS

they could not proceed farther, and he decided to send another petition,
and to stop at the Southern Capital at Chang Fangping's home until
he heard the Emperor's reply.

The second pathetic letter to the Emperor, written in February at
Szechow, read partly as follows:

^

"My salary has long been cut off and I am finding it difficult to
make ends meet Travelling with a whole family, I had to take a boat
from Huangchow, and have had many troubles on the voyage. My
family fell ill and I lost a son. Now though I have reached Szechow,
my money is all used up and I am still far from my destination. It
will be difficult for me to undertake a land journey. I have no house
to live in and no farm to bring me any income. Travelling with a
* family of over twenty mouths, I know not where to go. Starvation
is at my door. Rather than turn to my friends for help, I think L
should appeal directly to Your Majesty. I have a little farm in Ishing
county, district of Changchow, which will give me enough to live on.
I pray that Your Majesty will allow me to live at Changchow."

While on this journey, two amusing, or sad, incidents happened. He
wrote a poem at Szechow after taking a trip across the river to the
Southern Mountain. There was a long bridge across the river, and as
Szechow lay in a strategic place, nobody was allowed to cross the bridge
after dark. The severest penalty was given to any violators of this law.
In practice, however, the chief magistrate of Szechow ignored it anp!_
crossed the bridge after dark with Su Tungpo. In celebration of theiS
trip, Su wrote innocently the following lines:

"On the long bridge, lamplights glaring,
The chief magistrate returns."

The chief magistrate was a simple, honest Shantung scholar by the
name of Liu. When he read Su's poem the next day, he had his heart
in his mouth. He came to the boat to see the poet and said: "I have just
read your poem. But this is serious, very serious! With your national
reputation, this poem is bound to reach the court. An ordinary citizen
crossing the bridge at night is punishable by two years' hard labour^
For a magistrate himself to violate this law would be still worse. I beg
of you to keep this poem to yourself and not show it to others!"

Su Ttmgpo smiled ruefully and replied: "God help me! I have never
opened my mouth without deserving at least two years of hard labour!"

While he was staying at Chang Fangping's home, there was aAother

touching incident. At a jvine dinner given by the host, he recognised

t the> concubine of Chang's son, who once was a concubine of the chief